The Wild Turkey

I was excited to get an argumentative comment on my blog today! I started to write a response, but its length wouldn’t quite allow me to leave this in the comments section. So, whatever your position, feel free to discus Jim’s and my perspectives. The comment was to my post, Perfect Lover, and you can read his comment here. Check Jim out on his own blog, TheCommonAtheist, and his related post, Faith Trap.

Check out another response post I wrote: Awful

Dear Jim

You present an interesting case, and I’m left wondering whether to defend my position, which is openly that of personal experience, not statistics but anecdote, or to parse out your underlining counterargument. Both seem required.

So, to shore up my point, and perhaps clarify it, my experience in dealing one on one with atheists is that of dealing with nonthought. This is undoubtedly not universal, as I have grown up in a very atheistic climate: my teachers, friends, television shows, books, and basically everything but my family has time and again propagandized atheism, specifically materialism. Therefore this position becomes assumed, and is often defended—that is within the microcosm of my life—by social pressure and not argument. That then is my observation, and I do not intend it is as argument.

Your position, however, seems an argument, at least loosely. That is not meant as insult, only so much to classify your argument as informal, or better yet, conversational. Forgive me in that I can be flamboyant in writing, and as such this may seem less organic than your comment.

Taking time to go over your more recent blog posts, I think I get a sense of your position. Let’s start from the bottom, that last statement, which interpreted in the extreme would come out as saying something along the lines as, nothing about the church is good, but a more liberal reading may say, any good the church has is not intrinsic to the church, and therefore the church should be jettisoned as it spoils whatever good it does possess by bringing along immoral and or amoral aspects.

Defending the church, or anything, from unspecified critiques is rolling a boulder up the hill. I have no idea what bad or good you’re talking about in this case. Actually, I have no idea of bad or good outside of a spiritual framework, and as your position appears to be that of atheism, I wonder how you’re defining morality in this argument? Assuming you’re taking a subjective stance on morality, I would counter that your claim regarding the church is just your opinion, one held by a minority, and in a subjective morality free of reason, I know no better standard than democracy, say perhaps that of natural selection which allows for both of our positions as it allows for right and left handedness. This is really all to say, that attacking the church on the grounds of morality without grounding morality is meaningless babble. So, I am left with the only other assumption: your argument only makes sense if we accept an absolute morality.

Unfortunately, in all my conversations with atheists—in this case, materialists—I have yet to comprehend how an absolute morality can fit into a worldview without accepting the supernatural, and in essence, good and bad seem supernatural to me. Therefore, I find this final point of yours faltering poppycock, unthoughtful vitriol. It’s unspecific, and without any supporting points, resides on the level of a schoolyard insult, “Church is bad!” Hardly an example of your major thesis, that I’m wrong in my observations regarding the unmindful position of atheism. It’s contradictory to your other position of atheism as far as I understand the term. If you hold an atheistic position which incorporates any absolutes, in other words positing immaterial truths, I’d challenge it as self-contradictory, but having never experienced such an animal, am willing to hear out such a position and possibly reform mine.

Moving up the ladder: Your penultimate point, which comprises almost half of your paragraph, is indefensible. Your testimony fails substantially: you have neither the knowledge to make the claim, nor account for the whole of human history pregnant with contradictory testimony. It’s such a ridiculous position, I request that you actually think about it for all of three minutes. Two attacks can be leveled immediately. One, knowledge on the level of omniscience is needed to make this claim. For starters, you would have to know every prayer from the beginning to the end of time. Two, watering down your statement to the level of, the world is not such that prayers are answered, is automatically assuming your own position. The argument boils down to, atheism is true because I say so. People think that God answered their prayer, but since there is no God there is another explanation. Therefore there is no God. Tautology can be useful, but in this context comes across as lazy thinking. A proof cannot use its conclusion as the premise supporting that same conclusion.

Looking over the poetic post you linked to—and I goodheartedly would be interested in reading more of your poetry in this vein, it seemed to come from the heart—I see that you personally prayed fruitlessly. I won’t try to reform your experience to fit my worldview, but hope you understand how little weight I credit the argument. You’ve probably heard the old joke: insanity is when one person hallucinates a voice; religion is when people hallucinate the voice on a massive scale. I would counter that not hearing what the majority hears is more likely deafness, not wisdom. In a case like yours, I more likely credit an inability, or unwillingness, to hear, whatever intentions you posit, rather than a proof against God’s existence. (Forgive if I misunderstand the poem, for the bit about the voice in the crickets seems to lead away from the conclusion, a branch undeveloped. I don’t get the transition from there to the unraveling.)

Finally, I feel I can tackle your opening point, but hope the preceding body has already defended my position. Not all atheists come to their conclusions primarily by emotion, but in my experience that always is the case. Even in my short purview of your blog I find mostly angry rants, and why shouldn’t you be angry? I know I’m angry that atheism is shoved down my throat every day, and that as a child people constantly bullied me for standing against the mainstream. You undoubtedly experienced the same thing, only in reverse.

So here you are, with the grit to call me out for something you disagree with, and you did so in a respectful way. You spoke the truth as best you see it, and for that I applaud you. I wrestled with what manner of response, if any, I should give, and settled on a purposely aggressive one in the hopes of provoking. In other words, if you have time, tear this apart. The existence of God is one of my favorite topics, and far more interesting to me than a petty point regarding the assumed motives of atheists.

Sincerely,
Dr. Agonson

P.S.

Noticing your penchant for turkeys, I thought to share a picture of my favorite turkey for the featured image.

P.P.S

Crickets, as in silence, I get it now—Duh. My bad. I’m writing all this while fighting a cold, which explains the empty bottle of whisky.

26 Comments

  1. First of all, If you notice my tag line, “one minute infoblogs about breaking the faith trap” you’ll notice short and usually one or two points. I did not supply supporting documentation to your post because faith has none, and my personal observations about the ineffectiveness of religion requires none, so if you want dialog we’re not going to “Gish Gallup” a bunch of BS points that get lost in cherry picking answers, so one thing at a time. You said “I have yet to comprehend how an absolute morality can fit into a worldview without accepting the supernatural, and in essence, good and bad seem supernatural to me” Morality in the simplest explanation, is this; numerous studies and multiple species show the more neurons (bigger brains) equals more processing power. I’ve always found the morality argument for a god to be the absolute weakest for the simple reason that we have hard evidence that this thing we call “morality,” which is really nothing but a formative sense of good (positive) and bad (negative) behaviour, is a product of neurological processing power. The more neurons, the more accute an organisms understanding of it. Countless studies, across numerous species, prove this beyond any rational doubt. It is not a human phenomena, and its anything but complicated. Our ability to process positive and negative experiences forms cultural norms, and even your own Bible illustrates that often, the higher morality and altruism exists without the teachings of Jesus. It was the Good Samaritan, the one without the law, that helped the man. I imagine his prior experience and his ability to process that information would lead him to act in such a way of supporting a fellow creature. It even happens in the animal kingdom and crosses species as well. Very simple to understand. It’s not complicated.

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    1. In all that you’ve written, I can’t tell which side you’re taking. Lines like, “Our ability to process positive and negative experiences forms cultural norms . . .” imply relativistic morality, and yet you say, “The more neurons, the more [accurate/acute] an organism[’]s understanding of [morality],” which speaks of morality as outside our perception, ergo part of reality, an absolute.

      You cannot have morality as something real when you want to attack the church, and then ignore the implications which that reality has upon your own position. The point from my previous response: if morality is only perception (and atheism seems to preach that all is perception) then your criticism on the morality of the church is easily brushed off as an extreme viewpoint without merit. However, if morality is absolute, is an aspect of reality in the same way that logic and maths are, then materialism, which I understand to be your position, cannot stand.

      Most of what you’ve brought up regarding neurons and brain size doesn’t answer the question. Are you holding morality as real or perception, as an absolute ruler (we even might say judge) over our actions or a collection of loosely formed choices that easily could have been imagined differently. This second option is ludicrous; you’ve even brought out points against it, citing intelligence allowing for better understanding of morality, and morality’s widespread influence even beyond our species.

      If there are absolute moral rules, then there is absolute judgment. Absolute judgment is at least a type of god, if not God.

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      1. It doesn’t speak outside our perceptions at all. It very simple and your over thinking things. Only if you are still trying to wiggle god into the equation, does this get complicated at all. You presuppose you can argue for a god linked morality, and you still haven’t any evidence of a god yet.

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        1. We’re discussing reality; You want it to be simple? But, at least you’ve clarified your position that morality is housed within perception, ergo subjective. Do you admit then that your attack on the church is therefore subjective, the point I was trying to make? If so, why bother me with your ill opinion? If, however, what you said about the church can be judged as true or false, then I stand by my statement:

          If there are absolute moral rules, then there is absolute judgment. Absolute judgment is at least a type of god, if not God.

          Don’t bother me with bankrupt subjectivism, which is, as far as I understand, where your argument leads, for it’s on the level of a child doing a headstand and declaring that the world is upside-down. If everything is subjective, then subjectivism is subjective; without some foundation there is nothing.

          Related:
          https://taletold.wordpress.com/2017/10/07/to-my-generation/

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          1. You make a lot of assumptions, and quite wrongly too. You make a lot of conclusions you know nothing about. All I said is morality doesn’t come from god, that it comes from input that we process. Animals of all kinds do it, and so do we. Experiences coupled with reasoning teach behavior and set acceptable norms in all varieties of life. You tagged atheism in your post hoping for some dialog, but start with personal attacks about my level of understanding, which you clearly have already chosen a side. I am an observationist. I have never read an atheist book, but I have read yours. What I hear about religion doesn’t jive with the text, or with the realities of prayer and morality. Simple to observe that, and also simple to observe the dynamic moral display from every creature. Read your opinion papers, but don’t forget to look outside. This is very simple, and it’s not subjective at all. My whole career is to investigate a problem and solve it. It’s not hard. But you do have to pretend for one moment that you don’t already have the answers. It called learning. Not pride. That gets you a Christian life sentence.

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            1. I don’t think we’ve yet communicated. Whether you hold morality as subjective or objective, your attack on the church falls flat for reasons outlined above. Can we focus on this issue instead of questioning my motives?

              Do you find any problem with my argument specifically, or will you continue with your vague assertions? You say church is bad, but give no specifics, or even a foundation for the judgment of bad or good. If it is foundationless, then your attack is foundationless. On the other hand, giving morality a foundation seems the very thing you argue against. Citing the science of how we know morality in no way explains morality.

              Coupled with your self-classification as an “observationist,” I find this statement very interesting, “I have never read an atheist book, but I have read yours.” It amounts to agreeing with my premise, in general atheists don’t really think through their own beliefs. You’ve built houses, put your own ideological house in order before you judge mine.

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              1. You certainly are the pot calling the kettle black. Why must we continue to categorize morality as subjective or objective. What we see in nature and studies, is what it is. It doesn’t require god in any way. Your schooling has no basis in reality. I was in your shoes. Only a lot longer son. Don’t forget to look around you. Your blinders are on pretty tight.

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                1. The categorization is important because you’re using it objectively when you want to attack the church but turning around and treating it subjectively when you want to defend atheism. I agree with you that morality is what it is, and it is one or the other of these qualities. I have my own beliefs, but until you clarify your position, your argument against the church accepts premises that contradict premises within your core argument for atheism.

                  My point: Atheists on average don’t think through their beliefs.
                  Example: An atheist doesn’t seem to think his premises through enough to realize that two contradict each other, and that one logically leads to a belief in supernatural forces.

                  Addendum: The simple statement, the church is bad, is not a good argument. You’ve yet to defend the point, only assert it time and again, as if chanting your beliefs will make them true. To quote our president, “Sad.”

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                  1. Contradictions could be the Bible’s middle name. I have thought everything through very carefully, and it is all very possible without supernatural, which in itself is laden with contradiction. Like god is good. Very good, as he slaughters by commandment thousands. But hey. Excuses cover that. I have been in your side. In doesn’t add up, but you’ve made a decision to believe it, and you have no evidence for any if it. At least I can observe the natural world and show some proof that my way does work, even though you don’t like it. You want to prove morality comes from god, and you can’t even prove the god yet. You have the cart before the horse.

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                    1. You act as though we, or I specifically have not given apologetics a chance. I am quite certain 20 years exploring every angle was enough to get the picture. All it amounts to is cleverly worded arguments designed to disguise the inadequacy of the doctrine. The ambiguity of the answers. Ultimately a giant excuse for the fallacies and contradictions of gospel and scripture. Everything you’ve stated has been beaten to death by you and many before you. I was so into it that I couldn’t see out, that my entire myopia of the church had taken me away from even the most basic common senses. One day of soul searching, admitting that maybe I was wrong, and tried to be fair and see things the way some others had done. In an instant it was gone, and when you look with integrity of self, you will have a decision to make too. Follow your true belief, or be a follower. The fact that you are here, along with your two readers tells me you’ve got doubts. That the reason people get in to apologetics. I know this. Doubt and self validation. If you can convince me, you will convince yourself. I know you will most likely just scan through and dismiss this, but I’ve no dog in this fight. Maybe my words will help free another into a more productive life. Who knows. But that’s why I write. To be is to live Life unshackled and freely Unchain human thought- You are enslaved in your myopic views. Life outside is not what they say. Life is up to you.

                      Liked by 1 person

                  2. Difficult to see the humor,
                    Once I was in your shoes,
                    Everything so serious,
                    So much of you to lose,

                    So much time invested,
                    In the fable you call god,
                    That good sense out the window,
                    Won’t call a fraud a fraud,

                    For if I may I’ll be so bold,
                    And try to do with tact,
                    But everything your selling off,
                    Has everything but fact,

                    It has the how’s with maybe’s,
                    Conjectured ambiguity,
                    Guesses based on hopes and dreams,
                    Fails you in realities,

                    Your quick to point a finger,
                    But observations firm,
                    Don’t forget to look around you,
                    There is so much more to learn,

                    The books you read are narrow points,
                    Funnels dropped of religious care,
                    But faith requires no good sense,
                    As lone disciplines can attest,

                    A skewed vision of life and love,
                    You think you have it all,
                    Your good book’s made your messy mind,
                    And you want me to take the fall,

                    I may not have all the answers yet,
                    With that I’m not concerned,
                    With your head shoved so far up your ass,
                    You’ll fail where others learned.

                    Liked by 1 person

      2. “The more neurons, the more [accurate/acute] an organism[’]s understanding of [morality],” which speaks of morality as outside our perception, ergo part of reality, an absolute.

        Nonsense. What greater neurological capacity means is greater capacity for abstract and predictive thought. We can “think” about the consequences of an action in advance and assess whether it will increase or decrease suffering.

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  2. This is undoubtedly not universal, as I have grown up in a very atheistic climate: my teachers, friends, television shows, books, and basically everything but my family has time and again propagandized atheism, specifically materialism.

    You’re not Swedish, are you? Though they’re not into materialism much. Or Chinese? “Propaganda” would suggest the latter, but Sheldon doesn’t have a Middle Kingdom ring to it. 😋

    Anyways.
    You’re right it’s hardly universal. In fact one might almost take your experience in complete reverse, and it would be mine. Well except for the materialism I suppose. That one pops up across the entire spectrum.

    In a case like yours, I more likely credit an inability, or unwillingness, to hear, whatever intentions you posit, rather than a proof against God’s existence.

    You know, this paragraph might make sense when used towards someone like me. Even during my “try-out” phase in the religion pool, my prayers were mostly of the “Dude, seriously?!” kind. When I was actually attempting a conversation, that is, and not mindlessly chanting exactly prescribed litanies (the latter is somewhat relaxing, but hardly conducive to two-way communication).

    In case of someone who for decades tried, and tried, and tried harder, and believed, and hoped, and only ever sought the fault within himself for not trying hard enough… it’s a bit like adding insult to injury. Scratch that, it’s a lot like it.

    Some people strain so hard to hear, it drives them half mad.
    Tragically, those are the honest ones, who truly want to talk. Want guidance, want answers. And get… crickets. Silence.
    Because they refuse to take the easy way out and take their own random thoughts and feelings as “This must be god’s voice, it’s saying exactly what I thought it would!”

    Jim’s ears, it would be my guess, were bigger than all the SETI dishes taken together, straining for a divine whisper. Meanwhile, the universe kept nudging him in the rear, but he was too tuned into faith to feel it. Funny how that works, sometimes…

    I know I’m angry that atheism is shoved down my throat every day, and that as a child people constantly bullied me for standing against the mainstream.

    No, seriously. Norway? Britain? I thought the Church of England was rather easygoing (and with Lizzie beats the Pope hands down for a Supreme Head!) but the UK is hardly atheist heaven. Expatriate in China? Outer Mongolia?
    And can I move there, wherever you live? Except if it is China, I don’t like their political system.
    Norway would be grand. A bit chilly, but midnight sun and Fjords.

    Alright, gentle snark aside (I am half serious 😉 ) – I’m fascinated how experiences can differ so very much.
    I’m not even an atheist, yet feel more accepted, more at ease, in a pack of 100 atheists than a mere dozen Christians. I’ve been tolerated like a bothersome puppy, snarked upon, condescended to, or ignored by atheists, but I never once felt threatened, or hated.
    Christians have threatened me with everything from hell to bodily harm, sometimes for the crime of asking a stupid question. In fairness, so have other religions. One in particular has actively tried to carry out the threats.

    So, if there’s a colony of atheists out there that you’re stuck with, … can we switch places? You don’t like them, but I’d feel a lot safer. Maybe we’d both be happier.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I must ask why such a young, inexperienced and, though obviously well read within your own preferences, ignorant person would be ‘excited’ for an argumentative comment on your blog? Respectful dialogue or arguments… you often cannot have both.

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